Minimize Risk - Maximize Performance
January 2011

Industry Survey Reports 

 *A/E Law Firm Survey*

 Detailed survey of 20 A/E Law Firms across the United States providing regional and national perspectives on legal developments, claims and root causes driven by economic conditions with loss prevention recommendations and other insights from these legal experts.

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*A/E Survey Report*
Insightful survey report of A/E firms and how economic conditions are impacting business opportunities and affecting business decisions today.  

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*A/E Insurance Carriers
Survey Report"
Survey of 17 insurance carriers specializing in A/E Professional Liability (PL) insurance identifies current economic risk factors
, services offerings, claim trends and recommendations for reducing liability exposures.   

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10 Key Topics for Green Code Compliance



Many state and local governments are requiring the built environment to become "greener." Cities and counties are implementing requirements at the local level to increase energy efficiency and require greater sustainability in buildings.


  • The District of Columbia (DC) adopted green building and energy benchmarking legislation, and conducting a second round of a "stricter green" building code.
  • New York City adopted a Greener, Greater Buildings Plan requiring building energy ratings and annual disclosure for larger buildings, energy audits including meeting the New York City Energy Code.
  • San Francisco and Los Angeles have adopted green building ordinances imposing requirements for water and energy conservation, as well as waste reduction.
  • January 1, 2011 California implemented its’ state-wide green buildings code known as "CalGreen" requiring a 20% reduction in water usage, recycling of 50% of construction waste and the use of low-emissions paint, carpets. The law requires the inspection of all heating, air conditioning and other mechanical systems in all non-residential buildings over 10,000 square feet.
  • Forty (40) California cities have enacted their own mandatory green building ordinances with varying degrees of requirements, many stricter than the mandatory measures of CalGreen.


Independent Third Party Rating Programs

Adding to the mix, municipalities across the United States have implemented green building requirements using independent third party green rating systems such as LEED and GreenPoints. California also uses the California Green Builder Program developed by the California Building Industry Association’s Building Industry. Several cities and counties have developed their own alternative green programs using rating systems, independent guidelines and checklists. In 2009, the International Code Council launched the development of a new International Green Construction Code (IGCC) stating a commitment to developing a model code focused on new and existing commercial buildings addressing green building design and performance.


Key Topics
There are numerous programs and requirements related to sustainable buildings. The following are 10 key topics regarding green buildings and code compliance. Based on the most restrictive state-wide program implemented in California, CalGreen; that code will be used as a primary example of compliance issues, concerns and recommendations. Even if you don’t live in California, similar requirements are most likely heading your way. It seems when something occurs in California, it eventually makes its way across the country.


1. Avoid the Moving Green Target

As state sustainable requirements are implemented, it is extremely important to identify the minimum requirements as the first step. Project owners may be interested in heightening green standards using state voluntary codes or third party programs such as LEED or GreenPoints. Having upfront discussions documenting project objectives is essential. Identify mandatory requirements and/or enhanced sustainable objectives at the time of signing the contract is extremely important. Great care is needed identifying effective dates of future sustainable requirements. For example; certain Water Efficiency and Conservation requirements of the CalGreen Code take effect at a later date, July 1, 2011. Watch for future updates of state and third party programs realizing voluntary measures will most likely become mandatory in the future.


2. Aggressive Submittal Requests

Whenever new versions of building codes are implemented, there is a rush to submit projects to building officials before current codes expire. With the many moving parts of green codes, and third party programs, great care is needed. Watch for project owners pushing the project schedule including asking consultants to skip over design features to expedite the submission process. This strategy is risky in many ways; a building department cannot handle the rush of submittals, if submittals are missing components, or not compliant with green requirements, or unfinished, the building department may decline them. The same project owner that asked for a favor for omitting design features may come back and file a claim against the design professional for missing a target date that increases time and cost of the project.


3. Project Classification

It is important to know which entities govern the requirements for the project. That will be determined by the project classification. For CalGreen, the first step is identifying if the building is classified as residential or non-residential as provisions differ. The Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) is responsible for residential projects and the Building Standards Commission (BSC) is responsible for non-residential projects. Project classification within the building code determines the enforceable of green regulations.


4. Building and Planning Communication

Jurisdictions have and continue to create various policies and procedures for managing green code compliance. It is necessary for the design team to have early and close communication with local building and planning departments identifying documentation requirements for submittals. Many programs are still in the development phase with jurisdictions deciding on methods, processes and documentation requirements. One challenge is building departments typically regulate projects from the time of permit application to the certificate of occupancy. Under CALGreen regulations include items before the permit application (e.g. re-use/recycling of land clearing debris) and after the occupancy certificate (e.g. VOC limits on paints and coatings).  Other questions include the preparation of a commissioning plan; a requirement on all non-residential projects larger than 10,000 square feet. Other concerns the potential conflict of interest of inspectors and self-certifications made by contractors to meet CALGreen verification requirements.


5. Green Design Documentation

Green design features on the plans and specifications are needed, however documentation is also needed verifying meeting green requirements. For CALGreen, the code mandates documentation for water consumption (baseline and reduction due to green design measures), the Construction Waste Management Plan, the Building Operation and Maintenance Manual, and other verifications including special inspections, building material moisture content, installer certificates, material certificates of compliance, system testing, and others. CalGreen, standard forms have been created for documentation compliance.


6. Water Reduction Requirements

Water reduction is an obvious focus of green objectives. The CALGreen building code identifies several water reduction requirements from construction runoff, indoor and outdoor water usage, indoor moisture, and humidity. A mandatory measure requires a 20% reduction of indoor water use for both residential and non-residential projects. For compliance, the code requires baseline water calculations in gallons usage per day based on standard plumbing fixture types and use. Higher efficiency fixtures are then specified and installed, which result in the required reduction. For outdoor water use, projects need to provide water budget and compliance measures per the Model Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MLO) adopted by each jurisdiction.


7. Construction Waste

Diverting construction waste from landfills is another sustainable objective with contractors having primary responsibility. CALGreen requires a 50% reduction in construction waste and demolition debris. If a jurisdiction has a more stringent ordinance, the code defers to local programs. If a city does not have a construction waste ordinance, CALGreen requires submittal of waste management documents to the building department for approval. It is important to verify if local requirements are more restrictive than state requirements. Procedures for waste diversion have been used for years in many states. CALGreen provides a challenging regulation related to site clearing and excavation. It is important for newly graded construction sites to understand local jurisdiction requirements before soils are hauled off-site or to a landfill along with documentation requirements.


8. Indoor Pollutant Controls

Green building objectives includes the reduction of indoor pollutants for both residential and non-residential projects. CalGreen includes provisions in sets of tables listing a wide range of materials used in the construction industry; sealants, adhesives, coatings, floor coverings, composite wood (non-structural), and other items. Indoor pollutant control provisions focus on limiting the amount of emissions from volatile organic compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde used in or on the buildings. The intent is to reduce pollutants impact on occupants, installers, and neighbors. For California, the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) is developing documents and the Building Standards Commission (BSC) provides self-compliance forms for indoor pollutant controls.


9. Building Maintenance and Operational (M&O) Manual

Building Maintenance and Operational Manual provide "how-to" guides for owners and occupants on information on HVAC services and operations, and other requirements. CALGreen allows the jurisdiction to accept electronic or internet-based information in lieu of printed material. The code requires the developer to provide M&O information to the jurisdiction with "directions to the owner or occupant that the manual shall remain with the building throughout the life-cycle of the structure."


10. Commissioning Plans

Building commissioning has successfully improved efficiency and energy savings by using a "whole project" approach. The strategy can also reduced long-term utility and maintenance costs for building owners. Building commissioning is used as a quality assurance process for documenting how the project is meeting green objectives. For CalGreen, commissioning is required for non-residential buildings larger than 10,000 square feet listing 7 items: (1) Owners Project Requirements (OPR), (2) Basis of Design (BOD), (3) green measures shown in the construction documents, (4) commissioning plan, (5) functional performance testing, (6) documentation and training, and (7) commissioning report. The intent is a new building operates as the owner intended, and that building maintenance staff have a reference to operate and maintain the building systems properly. A commissioning report must be submitted to the city as part of the approval process when the certificate of occupancy is issued.


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Copyright apply. This newsletter is for information purposes only and should not be construed nor relied upon as regulatory or legal advice. Readers should consult with appropriate counsel regarding their specific situations and circumstances. 

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